Southwest, American Airlines Passenger Traffic Gains Altitude

Both Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) and American Airlines (NASDAQ: AAL) saw year-over-year improvement in passenger revenue metrics for May, with American Airlines today reporting revenue passenger miles grew 2.1% while Southwest reported a 0.6% gain.

American Airlines reported growth in both domestic and international segments, resulting in mainline revenue passenger miles in May of 17.2 billion, a 1.9% increase. And while it is smaller, with only 2 billion revenue passenger miles, its regional segment saw impressive growth of 3.7% in May.

Southwest Airlines, on the other hand, watched its revenue passenger miles rise by 0.6% to 9.4 billion in May. It saw its total passengers fall by 1.6% to 9.7 million, but the average length of the passenger’s flight rose to 971 miles.

However, when it came to the key measure of efficiency, Southwest closed the gap between it and American Airlines. Its load factor — measuring the percentage of seats filled by paying passengers — improved from 81.9% to 83.7% in May, while American Airlines saw its fall from 84.3% to 84%.

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Through the first five months of the year, revenue passenger miles at American Airlines, which includes the results of US Airways, rose to 88.2 billion, a gain of 2.4%. Southwest has seen similar growth, as its rose 2% to 42.7 billion.

And as in the month of May, Southwest improved load factor over the first five months of the year, as it improved from 78.3% in the year-ago period to 80.7%, whereas American Airlines has seen its stay flat at 81.6%.


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